Our Lady, the Rosary and the Holy Souls – Fr H.J. Coleridge SJ, 1889

“It pleads through the heart and through the lips of Mary herself.”

This is continuing our series of extracts from the great Fr H.J. Coleridge SJ.

This extract from a work on Purgatory nonetheless contains some interesting remarks on the Holy Rosary and its place in the life of the laity.

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Fr Henry James Coleridge SJ – On Purgatory

One of the greatest pains of Purgatory and how to avoid it
What might Jairus’s Daughter tell us about the pains of Purgatory?
Our Lady, the Rosary and the Holy Souls
Our Lord will come and purge the Temples of our Souls
The price of delay in relieving the souls in Purgatory

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The Prisoners of the King
Thoughts on the Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory
Fr Henry James Coleridge SJ

Burns and Oates, London
pp 206-213
UK readers
Internet Archive

We find the lives of the saints, the chronicles of religious orders, and other such records, full of anecdotes and revelations which all tend to the same conclusion, that our Lady is constantly exercising her power in favour of these Holy Souls, and that, on the other hand, devotions that are practised in her especial honour are among the most efficacious means which the children of the Church on earth possess of helping those blessed sufferers.

It will be enough here to speak of the universal devotion of the Holy Rosary, with which all Catholics are familiar.

Some writers tell us that this, after the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the most powerful weapon that can be used to obtain their deliverance.

The Office of the Laity

The Holy Rosary stands, to the great mass of Christians, much in the same place as the Divine Office of the Church to those who are bound to recite it, or who have the custom of so doing.

The Divine Office is the great public prayer of the Catholic Church, and it remains such even in the case of those who do not recite it in choir, but privately and singly. And it has great efficacy on that account, for in the Catholic Church there is a special power and blessing on united, universal and, as it were, official prayer and praise, which cannot be altogether impaired even by the unworthiness of some who are the ministers of the Church for this purpose.

The Holy Rosary is sometimes called the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin, and the universality of its use renders it, in a sense, the prayer of the whole Church, though not in the same degree as the Divine Office.

The life of Christ and the prayer of Our Lady

Intrinsically, moreover, it has an immense impetratory power with God, because it is in fact the pleading before Him of the merits of our Lord and of our Blessed Lady in all the mysteries which it commemorates, and which embrace the whole range of the scheme of our Redemption as accomplished by Him.

Then, again, it pleads all these merits, as it were, through the heart and through the lips of Mary herself, and so it adds to the power of the mysteries in themselves that of her perfect prayer and intercession, and the affections and intensity of charity which glow in her bosom.

Again, it uses with all its marvellous power the words of our Blessed Lord in the Pater Noster, and of the Archangel, St. Elisabeth, and the Church, in the Ave Maria; being also, at the same time, a chain of most excellent acts of faith, hope, charity, and other supernatural virtues, which are exercised in the consideration of the mysteries.

The history of the Rosary

It would be almost impossible to exaggerate the importance which holy writers attach to the practice of this devotion, whether as a means of intercession for the Holy Souls, or for our own benefit – and, as a matter of history, it is of our Lady, as honoured by this devotion, that the words of the Church seem so particularly true:

Cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo.

[“Thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world].”

The devotion of the Holy Rosary was first propagated by St. Dominic with the express intention of freeing large Catholic populations from the contagion of a frightful heresy, and down to the present day it seems to have this effect.

We are speaking of it, in this chapter, as a most powerful means of impetration of mercy for the souls in Purgatory. But in this, as in many other cases, the charity which we practise towards them flows back in abundant streams to the benefit of ourselves in this world and in the next.


The various forms which devotion to our Blessed Lady may take are almost innumerable, and we have in this chapter spoken only of this principal and universal devotion of the Holy Rosary. Masses in her honour, Masses offered for the souls devout to her, or to whom she may wish to apply them, alms given, or works of mercy practised with the same intention, or again, the recital of her Office, the visiting her statues, honouring her pictures, and the like, may all be used for the benefit of the Holy Souls as well as our own.

One act of devotion may be specially mentioned here, as having to some extent revived in our days, although there has never been a time in the Church’s history when it has been extinct, and although it is not limited in its object to our Blessed Lady. This act of devotion is the making pilgrimages to shrines, whether ancient or new.

The facilities of travelling have indeed made pilgrimages less difficult in our own time, and it may be thought by some that they are now more of a pleasant excitement than, as of old, a laborious work of penance and even of danger.

But, in the first place, a pilgrimage need not be made to a distant shrine, and a shrine of our Lady – let it be only her picture or statue in some neighbouring church – may be visited on foot, while a truer pilgrimage, costing toil and time, may be made to a greater distance. If, even in a country like ours, shrines of our Blessed Lady were frequently visited in this manner, we cannot doubt that the devotion of the faithful would soon unlock the treasury of her marvellous favours.

In the second place, pilgrimages to the more celebrated shrines of modern times, places like Lourdes or La Salette, where our Lady has appeared in our own day to persons, still living, or to the spots more anciently connected with her name, as Loreto and the like, are protestations of Catholic faith very valuable in an age like ours, they cost more in human respect than of old, though less in bodily fatigue, and are therefore very acceptable to her who is essentially “the Faithful Virgin.”

From Fr Henry James Coleridge SJ, The Prisoners of the King – Thoughts on the Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory. Also available for UK readers and at the Internet Archive

Further Reading

Our Lady and The Holy Rosary

The New Testament Rosary
The Old Testament Rosary
Why the Rosary and the Immaculate Heart are Fatima’s Two Last Remedies for the World
Leo XIII on the Holy Rosary
What did Cardinal Newman say about the Rosary to a school of young men and boys?
The Rosary: A School of Contemplation – Garrigou-Lagrange, 1941
“Do you pray to Our Lady as you should, as befits her?” from Georges Bernanos, 1937
Bishop Ullathorne’s vindication of Newman’s writings on Our Lady
Our Lady, the Rosary and the Holy Souls – Fr H.J. Coleridge SJ, 1889
How to explain the Immaculate Conception to non-Catholics – Cardinal Newman


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